Nutson's Weekly Auto News Digest
February 1-7, 2016
By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor and Bureau Chief
The Auto Channel
AUTO CENTRAL Chicago, February 7, 2016; Every Sunday Larry Nutson, Senior Editor and Chicago Car Guy along with fellow senior editors Steve Purdy and Thom Cannell from The Auto Channel Michigan Bureau, give you TACH's "take" on this past week's automotive news in easy to digest nuggets. If you wish to know more just click on the link that will take you to the full story as published here on The Auto Channel.
If you are a car and driving fan like we all are here at The Auto Channel, you can easily wish to "catch up" on these stories as well as the past 20 year's 1,966,005 automotive news, automotive stories, articles, reviews, archived news, video, audio, rants and raves just search The Auto Channel's Automotive News Archive.
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Automotive News February 1-7, 2016
*January auto sales beat the expectations of many but were still down from a year ago by 0.4%, taking a big hit from the heavy snows around he country. FCA, Nissan, Hyundai and Subaru were up. GM was flat. Ford, VW, Toyota and Honda were down. Sales were 1.148 million. Truck sales have tapered off a bit.
* The University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute's latest report from Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle says the average fuel economy (window-sticker value) of new vehicles sold in the U.S. in January 2016 was 25.1 mpg—up 0.2 mpg from the value for December 2015. This increase likely reflects the month-to-month seasonal decrease in sales of pickup trucks and SUVs. Fuel economy is down 0.7 mpg from the peak reached in August 2014, but still up 5.0 mpg since October 2007 (the first month of their monitoring).
* Scion, the 13-year-old youth-oriented brand launched by Toyota in an attempt to engage new buyers, will be going away later this year. The company touts Scion as being a huge success toward that goal but sales have not been strong enough to justify the marketing and other costs involved in supporting a separate brand. They will be folding the more successful models like the rear-wheel driver FR-S sports coupe back into the Toyota family later this year. The relatively new iA sedan and iM 5-door and the C-HR, which recently debuted at the L.A. Auto Show, will also be a part of the Toyota line-up.
* The much anticipated Tesla Model 3 small, relatively affordable sedan will be revealed at a special event in March but it will not be the complete car. The full-electric small sedan is expected to compete with the BMW M3. The Model 3 will be revealed in stages much as was the Tesla Model X. With a 200 mile range the Model 3 will start around $35,000 and come in both performance and economy models.
* Sergio Marchionne has been fleshing out a strategy to improve the health of FCA by not making cars that don’t make the company any money, particularly the Dodge Dart and Chrysler 200 sedans. Those models are expected to go away by 2018. FCA dealers could still have compact and midsize sedans to sell but they would likely be made by some other company under some sort of partnership agreement that is yet to be determined.
* California regulators were told in a recent public hearing on self-driving cars that the cautious approach is the right way to go. But others said that the aged and blind people would greatly benefit from a self-driving car and to move forward to help them. The companies developing the technology say that the state’s current course will delay deployment of vehicles that promise huge safety benefits. Currently California wants a licensed driver in a self-driving car that must be equipped with a steering wheel and brake and throttle controls. Development reports show that the cars are not always capable of "seeing" pedestrians and cyclists, traffic lights, low-hanging branches, or the proximity of parked cars, suggesting too great a risk of serious accidents involving pedestrians and other cars. The cars also are not capable of reacting to reckless behavior quickly enough to avoid the consequences, the reports showed.
* According to an Automotive News article, Porsche does not plan to join luxury automakers which are developing self-driving vehicles, CEO Oliver Blume told a German newspaper. Porsche drivers want to drive their cars themselves, Blume said in an interview with regional newspaper Westfalen-Blatt.
* GM unveiled a state-of-the-art Powertrain Performance and Racing Center that will help move into the future one of the world’s most formidable race engine development programs. The center’s 82 engineers and staff members will move from Wixom, Michigan into a 111,420-square-foot facility connected to GM’s sprawling Global Powertrain Engineering Center in Pontiac, Michigan. In addition to the 500-horsepower V-8s that powered the Corvettes around Daytona’s 180 mph-plus bankings, the Performance and Racing team develops engines for NHRA drag racing, IndyCar, Pirelli World Challenge Cadillacs, and the NASCAR “R07” mill for Chevy-powered teams.
* The Takata air bag debacle is really exploding. Now 2.2 million additional Honda and Acura vehicles are being recalled. The driver’s air bag inflators made by Takata can explode and hurl shrapnel into the passenger compartment. This recall includes older model years up to 2005 and also some newer vehicles from the 2015 and 2016 model years.
* Continental Automotive Systems said it supplied potentially defective air bag control units to 5 million vehicles used by Honda, Fiat Chrysler, Mercedes-Benz, Mazda, VW, Kia and Volvo trucks built over a five-year period worldwide, widening an air bag safety crisis. Electronic systems built from 2006 through 2010 and used in 5 million vehicles may fail and air bags may not deploy in a crash or may inadvertently deploy without warning.
* Mazda filed a safety defect report with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to address a concern with 2013-2016 CX-5 vehicles. On all 2013-2016 CX-5 vehicles, the fuel filler pipe could rupture during a rear collision, and could potentially cause fuel leakage. A stop sale was issued for vehicles at dealers.
* Suzuki is recalling more than 68,000 motorcycles in the U.S. because the battery charging system can fail and cause the bikes to stall. The recall affects 15 models from the 2008 to 2012 model years.
* FCA is recalling more than a half-million Dodge Chargers worldwide because they can slip off of the jack when a tire is being changed. The recall covers Chargers from the 2011 to 2016 model years and includes almost 442,000 cars in the United States.
* An engine problem prompted Honda to issue a recall and stop sale order for 2016 Civics with the 2.0-liter normally aspirated engine. The order does not apply to the 1.5-liter turbo cars. Civic won the prestigious North American Car of the Year Award this year. The repair parts are not yet available so the affected cars will remain on hold until fixed. Call your Honda dealer for details.
* In the Rolex 24 at Daytona, Luis Felipe "Pipo" Derani, a 22-year-old racing prodigy from Brazil, took the checkered flag in the No. 2 Tequila Patron ESM Honda-powered Ligier JS P2, 26.166 seconds ahead of 2005 overall winner Max Angelleli in the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP. In the factory-backed GT Le Mans Class, Oliver Gavin held off Corvette Racing teammate Antonio Garcia in a side-by-side battle at the stripe to win the classification by .034 seconds in the No. 4 Corvette C7.R. In GT Daytona, Magnus Racing's Rene Rast nursed his No. 44 Audi R8 LMS GT3 to the finish line to hold off Nicky Catsburg in the No. 540 Porsche GT3 R by 3.048 seconds.
* Also at the Rolex 24, the two-car Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT team, who debuted the No. 66 and No. 67 at the Rolex 24 at Daytona had their problems. Both Ford GTs suffered gearbox issues that quickly set them too far behind to catch up. Like many race endeavors the first time out often shows up new issues. On the good news side, Billy Johnson and Scott Maxwell drove the Ford Shelby GT350R-C to its first win at Daytona International Speedway in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge race.
* NASCAR champion Tony Steward will miss the start of the racing season as a result of an injury sustained in an ATV crash. Stewart and fellow Sprint Cup competitor Greg Biffle were driving on sand dunes when the accident happened. Stewart injured his L1 vertebra but is expected to recover and return to racing this, his final season. This is the second time "Smoke" got hurt while not at his real job.
* The 2017 Ford F-150 Raptor off-road pickup will be entered in a series of race events this year. A race version of the new generation truck that features an aluminum body instead of steel will compete in the 2016 Best in the Desert off-road racing series' new factory stock class.
* The organizers of the Le Mans 24 Hours, the ACO (Automobile Club de l’Ouest), confirmed that all four Ford GTs have received a place on the prestigious entry list for the 2016 Le Mans 24 Hours. Fifty years on from Ford’s famous 1-2-3 outright victory at Le Mans, all four Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GTs will compete for GTE Pro class glory at the world’s greatest motor race, which takes place on June 18-19.
* The flurry of collector car auctions in and around Phoenix ended this week with an impressive 2,491 cars sold totaling $250.6 million. Top sale of the week was at RM Sotheby’s - a 1937 Mercedes-Benz 540K Special Roadster that went for $9.9 million. Analysts note that these numbers are a bit down from last year but some segments of the market offered positive results. The experts at Hagerty describe the tone of this years sales as “cautious.”